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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Sarkozy set to meet Dalai Lama

December 7, 2008

Aljazeera.net - Qatar
Saturday, December 06, 2008
 
 
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has arrived in the Polish city of Gdansk for a gathering of Nobel laureates during which he is to meet the Dalai Lama.
 
Beijing, angry at the planned meeting, has retaliated by cancelling a forthcoming China-EU summit in France.
 
It also warned that multi-billion-dollar trade deals with France were in jeopardy should Sarkozy go ahead to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.
 
"We have not noticed any kind of start of a boycott of our products," a French presidential official told the AFP news agency on Saturday, emphasising that France and China needed each other during a period of economic crisis.
 
Sarkozy is set to become the only European head of state to meet the Dalai Lama while holding the EU's rotating presidency.
 
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.
 
Asked on Friday in the northern Polish city whether he thought Sarkozy might cancel the meeting with him, as has happened twice in the past, the Dalai Lama said: "Wait until tomorrow. I  don't know."
 
Boycott calls
 
Commenting on whether EU-China relations and trade could suffer over his planned meeting with Sarkozy, the Dalai Lama said: "China also needs Europe."
 
"The original initiative of some pressure, sometimes is not followed by action," he said.
 
France has said the planned meeting will be held and has called for economic ties to be spared from retribution, especially during the financial crisis.
 
"We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends," said Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister.
 
Momentum has grown among Chinese internet users, angry at the planned meeting, for a boycott of French products.
 
"I am using my real name to swear to the French: I am going to boycott French goods for my whole life. I will never use French brands or any product made in France," said one internet poster, who identified himself as Yan Zhongjie.
 
"We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends"
Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister
Liu Jianchao, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Thursday that Sarkozy's proposed meeting with the Dalai Lama had caused "a lot of dissatisfaction" with the Chinese people, but he also called on the public to be "calm and rational".
 
Although there is a large French presence in China, including companies such as hypermarket chain Carrefour, China has a trade surplus with the European nation and antagonising key partners during a global slowdown could be risky.
 
Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, met the Dalai Lama on Saturday in Gdansk, where as a past recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize he had been invited to ceremonies marking 25 years since Lech Walesa, Poland's anti-communist solidarity icon, received the award.
 
The former union leader is regarded as a key figure in the peaceful collapse of communism in Poland in 1989.
 
The Dalai Lama, now 73, was awarded a Nobel Peace prize the same year.
 
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, attended Saturday's ceremonies in Gdansk.
 
'Totally baseless'
  
China has argued that the Dalai Lama is seeking full independence, something he on Friday called a "totally baseless" claim.
 
"When China becomes more democratic, with freedom of speech, with rule of law and particularly with freedom of the press, ...  once China becomes an open, modern society, then the Tibet issue, I  think within a few days, can be solved," the Dalai Lama said on Friday.
 
Addressing the European parliament in Brussels on Thursday, he said China lacked the moral authority to be a true superpower.
 
"The Dalai Lama will raise human rights issues and above all the very urgent situation of Tibet ... where the situation nearly resembles that of martial law," during the Saturday afternoon meeting with Sarkozy, the head of France's Tibetan community Wangpo Bashi told radio France-Info Saturday.
 
The meeting is "a very strong signal" for Tibetans, he added.
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